Archive for the ‘health’ Category

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Sustainable Sleep

January 5, 2008

New years mean new resolutions, and with the pace of the typical schedule, it can be difficult to fit additional activities into each day. However, I offer one resolution that may even make the others easier to keep:

Practice Sustainable Sleep. I know, it may not seem like environmentalism in the traditional sense, but maintaining a sustainable lifestyle allows you to operate more efficiently, and have a higher quality of life. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the loss of even a few hours of sleep each night can cause difficulties with anxiety, mood, and health and impair alertness and motor skills.

“Daytime alertness and memory are impaired by the loss of eight hours of sleep, especially when sleep loss is sustained over a few nights.

“University of Pennsylvania researchers found that when study subjects were only allowed to sleep 4.5 hours a night for one week, they reported feeling more stressed, angry, sad, and mentally exhausted, with overall scores for mood and vigor declining steadily during the test period. “ (both via this NSF PDF)

So start sleeping. Each person requires a different amount of sleep to function at their best, and it can vary over seasons and years. The best way to find out how much is right for you is to simply start sleeping. Go to bed early enough that you can get 9-10 hours of sleep before your alarm would wake you, more if possible. If you wake up naturally before your alarm, get up and begin your day. While the first several days will see you sleeping far more than you thought was necessary, eventually your body will even out to somewhere in the 7-9 hour range.

Stick to this resolution with these sleep tips from the NSF. The quick summary is to make sure you allot plenty of time to relax and sleep, and give yourself a stress free, comfortable place to sleep. These two have been a struggle for me during my time in architecture school and living in the dorm. But I’ve been making an effort this year to reduce my late nights in studio and eliminate my caffeine intake. It’s really made a difference in decreasing my overall stress level.

What are your sustainable resolutions? (photo via)

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Tea Time

December 29, 2007

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When the weather gets cold, herbal tea is my best friend. A steaming cup of hydration goodness is the perfect welcome home or companion to a crossword puzzle on a lazy afternoon. But I’ve never liked all the packaging required for tea bags. Not only is there a large box, but individual wrappings for each bag, plus the bags themselves. Seems like a lot of extraneous material.

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So I reduced the packaging and increased my potential enjoyment by getting a tea ball. It’s basically a reusable metal tea bag, which not only allows me to get loose leaf tea but customize my concoctions. Loose leaf tea is hard to find in a standard grocery stores, but Whole Foods and other local culinary outlets often have a good selection. It comes in larger cans or bags with no additional interior packaging. Because it’s loose, you decide the amount of each tea to put in the ball, not the manufacturer. So whether you like Earl Grey-Rosemary, Mint-White, or Chai-Oolong-Dandelion, you can go for it. I’ve been favoring a Chrysanthemum-Chamomile-Rose Petal mix lately; the Chrysanthemum was recommended for my digestion, and the rest help mask the flavor of the former. The tea is also more flavorful as the larger leaves retain more of their natural oils and have more surface contact with the water in a tea ball.

This winter I’ll reduce my tea waste by 91 cubic inches by using the tea ball. It’s assuming I drink 1 cup of tea each day all winter, and that the waste from a tea bag and packaging is about 2″x2″x.25″. I know it’s not much, but this is not only contributing to habits of sustainability; it’s improving my experience and encouraging better hydration through a more flavorful and customizable tea. Anytime I can do that AND help the environment, it’s a no brainer.

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Get a Flu Shot: Protect Yourself, Protect Others

November 13, 2007

Flu season is upon us.  The holidays are upon us.  Please get a flu vaccine.

The CDC recommends flu shots for high risk individuals and their care providers.  However, they also recommend it for anyone who wants to lower their risk of getting the flu.  Not only will you protect your personal health, but you’ll reduce the chance of passing the virus to others, important during the holiday season when you are visiting friends and relatives, especially grandparents and new arrivals.

Each year I encourage my nearest and dearest to get vaccinated, and each year I hear a multitude of excuses.  But I have yet to hear one that makes me even consider NOT getting vaccinated.  Here are some of my “favorites.”

I don’t like needles.  There is a nasal spray vaccine available called FluMist® which healthy persons between 2-49 can get.  No needles.

I’ve never gotten the flu, so I won’t this year.   Is that a risk you’re willing to take?  Getting the flu can easily place you out of commission for 1-2 weeks.  While some people may be able to handle that, most people I know would fall incredibly behind if they missed 2 weeks of classes and work.  Yet still those same people take their chances with flu.

I don’t want to spend the money.  Flu vaccine isn’t very expensive.   Many health departments offer reduced prices for high risk or lower income individuals.  Call your local health department to find out where the cheapest vaccines are offered.

I don’t want to get sick from the vaccine.  The flu shot uses dead virus, so you can’t get the flu from the vaccine.  However, the nasal spray does use a weakened live virus, but the CDC says the virus used will not cause the flu.

I’m healthy, I can handle the flu.  That may be true, but getting vaccinated not only protects you, it protects those around you.  This includes your friends and family, which may include people that are elderly, ill, or young children, all of whom should be protected from exposure to flu due to an increased risk of complications.  Not only that, but there are multiple variants of the flu that circulate each season, so getting the flu once is not protection against catching another version later.  The flu shot includes this season’s most common variants for maximum protection.

I’m vegan and the flu vaccine is grown using chicken eggs.  I support the choice to be vegan, but I have a hard time justifying risking your health over this statement.  Especially if you are high risk, and especially if you are coming into contact with people who are high risk.  Even if you are vegan, please strongly consider getting vaccinated.

I don’t want to use up a vaccine that could go to a high risk person instead.  In the recent past there have been years of flu vaccine shortage.  During those times there were limits imposed on who could receive the vaccine to ensure that all high risk people were vaccinated first.  However, most years there is not a shortage, and extra vaccine must be discarded at the end of the season.  Flu vaccine is specially created for each year, so use it or lose it.

Do you get a flu shot?  What are your favorite reasons for getting one?